For two years as Wonkette, Ana Marie Cox was best known for gleeful daily references to "ass-fucking" and political tawdriness in the blogosphere. Now, she’s moving on to different endeavors. Cox’s first novel, the satirical Dog Days, was released this month and she is beginning work on a nonfiction book about young political activists. But while she may be writing in a different voice, her work explores a lot of the same themes. "People’s lives are so messy in politics," she says on the phone one morning from her home in Washington, DC. "You can’t separate your work from your play, from your love, from your professional, from your personal. Like it’s all just kind of one thing and you use the same skills in all of them — the same kind of spin, and dealing, and compromising."
Wonkette.com, launched in January 2004, has been one of the lynchpins in Nick Denton’s blog empire, which includes Gawker, Fleshbot, and Gizmodo. Now Cox passes the Wonkette baton to David Lat (a steamy blogger in his own right, who used to write about the Supreme Court from the perspective of a gossipy young woman). She admits that while "you can take the girl out of Wonkette, you can’t take the Wonkette out of the girl." Thank God for that.
Q: What kind of political fiction is Dog Days?
A: I don’t think its a chick-lit book — it’s not Bridget Jones in DC — but I also don’t think it’s Primary Colors in a skirt. It’s a little bit unlike many political novels, in that while it has something of an arc about a newcomer to DC who is tempted by the excesses of this Babylon and then ultimately renounces it, there’s no real heroine, no one’s redeemed.
Q: Is it a cynical look at DC?
A: It’s pretty cynical, but I also would add that I don’t think that it’s unrelenting in its cynicism. I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s something of a satire — it is taking the worst of Washington to an extreme. It’s not meant to be an incredibly realistic, nuanced portrait of these people. It’s meant to sort of draw out the most comic and absurd elements of life here.
Q: To what extent do you see your blog, and these books, as ways to get more people involved and interested in politics?
A: I’ve always been frustrated with the fact that people don’t realize how sexy — not necessarily in a sex-filled way, but sexy in a dirty, malicious, craven way — politics is. How come it is that when we see corruption and deceit on Desperate Housewives, that’s entertainment, but we refuse to see the absurdity and the entertainment value when it happens in politics? I mean, it’s terrible, and we should be offended.... But I think far from turning us off from politics, corruption should make us more interested. Not just because it’s something we need to watch out for, but it’s also something that’s fun to watch. So I think the book’s pretty cynical and everything, but I hope it shows that there’s this whole human side to politics here. And that that’s the fascinating side. Why do people get involved in politics, knowing that it’s corrupt and venal, and that there’s little chance of actually making a difference? People come here by the thousands every year. And I just want to know more about them. And I mean, you don’t walk through the door because you think you’re going to get laid. That’s not why someone joins a campaign. I mean, perhaps Howard Dean’s, I don’t know. But I think for most people, it has to do with actually believing in something. Then you get laid later.